Friday, January 22, 2016


Lots writers want to dive into self-publishing, to reap all the rewards for themselves when they put a book out, and I have to admit 70 percent royalties beats the crap out of 30 percent – or less in some cases. 

However, they hesitate to publish their own material because they are afraid their book will come out looking amateur-nightish.

And judging from some of the ridiculously unprofessional books I've seen out there, I can see why they feel that way.  I have come across books (exceedingly more often in the past decade, unfortunately) and thought that though the story was fine, that the presentation was horrific, and had I been that author, I would have preferred my manuscript stay in my desk drawer than have it be published in such a state.

So how do you make sure your book looks like it was published by a big, swank, publishing house? 

Simple:  Watch what The Big Boys and Girls do. 

Spy.  Sounds like fun, doesn't it? 

If you're anything like me, you most likely have piles of books on your shelves, right? So if you want to know what a Table of Contents should look like, or how long an author bio should be, and exactly where it should appear in a book, look through half a dozen books by famous-ass authors, put out by big-ass publishing houses and take a look at how they do it. 

Decades of knowledge and experience garnered by the crème-de-la-crème of the publishing industry will never fail to show you what you need to know.  Learn from the best by merely following their example.

Do a thumb-through and look at everything that appears on the cover, and how it's placed, sized, whether or not it's embossed, glossy, matte, and what the pictures are like.  Check out the title page and look at what belongs there – and what does not.

Look at the waiver and copyright blurbs.  The Big Boys and Girls leave nothing to chance – they cover their asses quite well legally, so you might want to copy down their legal blurbs and use them in your own books. 

See how they set up the Table of Contents and set yours up that way as well.  And for eBooks, make sure you go on Youtube and learn how to make them interactive.  (There are many helpful tutorials there that can get you through the self-publishing process without too much sweating of blood and bullets.) 

Is there an acknowledgement page, and if so, who does the author acknowledge -  everyone he's ever met from the mother who bore him to the barista at the coffee shop who foams his cappuccino?  Or just his publisher, editor, and spouse for putting up with his moods? 

Look at the headers, page numbers, and footers.  Where do they start?  What goes on what page?  Where do they go on the page?

Is there an introduction? A foreword? A dedication?   Where?  Is it in regular print, italics? Bold? Does it get a number on the page?  Is it dated?  Are there headers on those pages? How many pages is an average foreword? 

Is the text in a standard print? How many spaces are the indents?  Are there two spaces after end of sentence punctuation or just one?  Is the manuscript single or double spaced?  Are there titles on the chapters? Are the chapter numbers or titles centered or left-justified?

Do reviews of the book go in the front or the back?

Is there a sample chapter or two from the author's next book?  How is that set up?  Is there an introductory blurb for that?

Is there an author's bio?  How long is it? Strictly professional info or is there some personal info as well?  Does it include a picture of the author?

Is there a bibliography of the author's other work, with links to make it easy for the reader to access?  Or a straight list?  Is the bibliography in the front or back matter? 

In children's books, are the illustrations all the way through, or just at the beginning of each chapter, or is there no interior art at all?  Is the text always at the bottom of the page or varied throughout?  How is the illustrator credited?  How does the copyright read when there is an author and an illustrator? 

If a book is co-authored, how are the dedications and acknowledgements handled? 

Not every book will be set up exactly the same way, but there are some standard rules, and you will notice consistencies as you spy on several different publishing houses and the way they do things. Make note of when they break with traditional formatting, and why.  Notice their differences.

The small details that you might think don't matter, actually do.  Little touches mean the difference between your book looking like it was produced by a self-pubbing hack or a professional, seasoned author who respects his or her readers.

Most important, apply every single scrap of knowledge you pick up from The Big Boys and Girls to your book.  Give yourself a professional edge and readers will gravitate to your work again and again. 

TD – 1/22/2016

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